Union bangs the drum for universal broadband

TMA 2002: The government is berated for not using the Communications Bill to drive the rollout of broadband services in Britain - will wireless save the day?

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has called on the government and industry to make universal broadband access a reality in the UK.

Speaking at TMA 2002 on Tuesday, the CWU's deputy general secretary for telecoms, Jeannie Drake, insisted that the government had to invest in pilot schemes, demos, education and awareness programmes as well as funding research into innovative ways of bridging the broadband divide.

"We believe that universal broadband access can be achieved if all players work in harmony over the next five years," said Drake. "If government can also raise its vision and see that universal broadband access could be a reality and puts it at the heart of its plans, then it would be a huge boost for the UK."

The key to universal broadband access, according to Drake, is wireless: "The 2.1GHz, 3.4GHz and 5.6GHz bands could all be used to offer broadband services. In our view, wireless is key to whether universal broadband access can be a reality."

Latest figures indicate that roughly one-third of homes and small and medium-sized business cannot get a broadband connection because telcos believe it isn't economically viable to install the infrastructure needed to offer high-speed Internet services in their area.

The CWU wants the government to address this issue by paying for high-speed Internet access for the public sector. "The government must commit to providing a broadband connection to every school, hospital and library. This would certainly aid the one-third of the country without broadband," Drake said.

Drake, who said that her union has first proposed a national broadband network in the 1970s, is unimpressed that the Communications Bill does not contain any specific broadband initiatives, as previously reported by ZDNet UK.

"Relegating broadband to an appendix in the Communications Bill, which said that 'broadband did not require legislative action' was absolutely breathtaking in its failure to the challenges ahead," Drake added.

Speaking at TMA on Monday, the chairman of the Broadband Stakeholders Group, Keith Todd, demanded that government, industry and regional bodies work together to address Britain's broadband divide.

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